June 13, 2013
The Economist, 06/15/2013
RIO DE JANEIRO is proof that even nature’s most lavish blessings cannot guarantee success. Rio lost its position as Brazil’s political capital to Brasília in 1960 and its status as the country’s business capital to São Paulo over the following decades. Gang wars and poor infrastructure have battered its tourist industry. The 2016 Olympic games represent the city’s best chance of reversing decades of decline. But is it capable of seizing the chance? That question towers over Rio like the rhetorical equivalent of the statue of Christ the Redeemer.
The person who will do more than anybody else to answer it is the head of the Municipal Olympic Company, Maria Sílvia Bastos Marques. She has the perfect background to lead an organisation that straddles the public and private sectors: a former boss of a steel company and director of Brazil’s two biggest companies, Petrobras and Vale, she has also held numerous positions in local government and served as the first female director on the board of Brazil’s huge development bank, BNDES. And she has a ready answer to any question.
What about logistics? She points to a map that shows the dedicated bus lanes and metro lines that will bring the scattered population to the games. What about Rio’s Byzantine government (power is divided between federal, state and municipal government, and the armed forces own huge chunks of land in the city)? She seems to know everyone who matters. What about crime? She notes that this is not her responsibility but quotes figures to show that the new “pacification” police are doing a good job. Ms Bastos Marques says she wants the games to transform her native city, speeding up projects that have been on the books for years—such as a 30-year-old scheme to upgrade the port district—to lay the foundations for long-term growth.
June 11, 2013
Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 06/10/2013
It was perhaps not the wisest question to a gangland boss: how good is your gun?
“These guns are the best,” said the Red Command patrão (neighbourhood boss), patting a Glock pistol with an extended 32-bullet clip. “I’ll show you.” With that, he pointed the barrel to the sky and let off a volley of half a dozen shots. “Do you understand now?”
The crackle of gunfire might have sparked consternation in many countries, but in this gang-controlled favela in the north of Rio de Janeiro, the sound was so commonplace that passersby barely broke stride. Three young gang members with Glocks and walkie-talkies looked up briefly and then continued chatting on the white plastic chairs that served as their sentry post. Drug users in the nearby crack den failed to stir at all. The police were nowhere in sight.
March 4, 2013
Fox News Latino, 03/04/2013
A lightning operation conducted without incident by Brazilian security forces early Sunday morning allowed authorities to regain control of two “favelas,” or shantytowns, in a strategic part of Rio de Janeiro forming part of the roadway corridor for the 2016 Olympic Games.
The Complejo do Caju and Barreira do Vasco favela districts, which for decades had been controlled by drug traffickers, were taken over in half an hour by some 1,500 members of the security forces, mainly the Bope special operations battalion and the Shock Battalion of the Military Police, backed up by the local Civil Police and some 200 navy riflemen.
The riflemen, transported on navy armored vehicles, removed the barricades and other obstacles that drug traffickers had left along stretches of roadway to make police access more difficult.
August 1, 2012
Julia Michaels – Christian Science Monitor,8/1/2012
Ever since pacification began in Rio de Janeiro, in November 2008, we’ve been hearing (and saying) that social needs must also be met. As the number of UPPs, or police pacification units, grow (now at 26, employing 5,000 men and women, with a goal of 40 by 2014), State Public Safety Secretary José Mariano Beltrame – and many others – repeat the mantra about the other side of the coin.
The Social UPP got off to a shaky start, with Governor Sérgio Cabral’s political needs shoving it out of the state nest in December 2010, into the municipal one, under the aegis of the Pereira Passos Institute. From day one however, it’s been run by Ricardo Henriques (who next week hands his post over to former municipal finance secretary Eduarda La Rocque, who is to keep on current director Tiago Borba) and a growing team, in partnership with the United Nations Habitat program.
Centuries of neglect and the mantra repetition have led to the general perception in Rio that police pacification is dangerously outpacing the city’s ability to meet social needs.
December 10, 2010
Alexei Barrionuevo – New York Times, 12/09/2010
Flanked by officers holding assault rifles, José Mariano Beltrame, Rio’s security chief, strolled through the streets of Complexo do Alemão, just days afterthe police and military had stormed the notoriously dangerous slum and retaken it by force.
It was a historic walk, the first time he had set foot in the slum in years, underscoring this city’s newfound willingness to wrest away areas of the city that have been violent refuges for drug gangs for more than three decades.
Residents watched stone-faced as Mr. Beltrame passed. No one applauded or rushed to shake the hand of the man who had orchestrated the program to “pacify” Rio’s slums ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. Instead, a 54-year-old mother confronted him for several minutes, telling him that a Military Police officer had entered her home, pinned her against her kitchen sink and demanded her son’s money.
December 3, 2010
The Economist, 12/02/2010
IT WAS a moment that residents of Rio de Janeiro thought would never come. For decades many of the city’s favelas have been ruled by drug traffickers or militias. Sporadic flare-ups would see the police go in to these self-built settlements seeking revenge, only to pull back leaving bodies scattered and the gangs to return to business. But last month when the city’s two main drug gangs began hijacking and torching vehicles at gunpoint, this time the authorities’ response was different.
The state governor, Sérgio Cabral, ordered jailed gang leaders suspected of masterminding the mayhem moved to distant high-security prisons. He also asked the federal government for help. On November 25th police, backed by marines and armoured vehicles, pushed into Vila Cruzeiro, which forms part of Complexo do Alemão, a cluster of a dozen favelas in the north of the city. Brazilians were riveted by live television coverage of dozens of gun-toting gangsters fleeing across a hillside to the heart of Complexo do Alemão. The army arrived and encircled the entire Complexo. At dawn on November 28th police and troops went in and, after a firefight, took control. At least 37 people died in the clashes, several of them bystanders.
December 2, 2010
Fabiana Frayssinet – InterPress Service, 12/01/2010
Reports of human rights abuses committed during the police and military occupation of several favelas in this Brazilian city are jeopardising local residents’ newfound support for the security forces and posing challenges within the police.
“I have never felt so humiliated,” a local woman who takes in people’s laundry for a living told IPS. Asking to be identified merely as “D”, she talked about what happened during the massive joint police and armed forces incursion in the Complexo do Alemão, a series of favelas or shantytowns on the north side of Rio de Janeiro.
D said she is trying to get back to life as normal, but that it is not easy in the midst of hundreds of police and soldiers who have been controlling the entire favela since Sunday, while searching every corner for weapons, drugs and fugitives from justice.
December 1, 2010
Marcelo Soares and Chris Kraul – Los Angeles Times, 12/01/2010
After a two-pronged, weeklong assault on entrenched drug gangs in Rio de Janeiro slums, Brazilian army troops will remain in the city’s worst shantytown for at least six months to maintain order, the government announced Tuesday.
In a military-style invasion Sunday, 800 troops supported 1,800 riot police using armored cars and helicopters in a two-hour operation to pacify the Complexo do Alemao slum, a sanctuary for many of the city’s hardened traffickers. The operation left 50 dead, including three police officers. Authorities made 123 arrests. Significant caches of drugs and weapons were seized.
The Defense Ministry’s decision to keep the troops stationed in the slum came despite complaints from civic activists that the soldiers weren’t fit for a policing role and might only anger residents. Rio de Janeiro state Gov. Sergio Cabral, who made the request, argued that many of the troops have performed peacekeeping duty in Haiti.
December 1, 2010
Bradley Brooks – The Associated Press, 11/29/2010
Rio’s top security official cheered the capture of what was long the most dangerous slum in this city that will host the 2016 Olympics, and within hours he was already setting his sights on the next target.
Rio state public security director Jose Beltrame, who has been criticized by human rights groups in the past for tough policing methods, was humble but clearly thrilled Sunday after police and soldiers seized control of the Alemao complex of about a dozen slums. For decades, it had been the key territory of Rio’s biggest drug gang, the Red Command.
“The Alemao was the heart of evil,” Beltrame said.
But he emphasized that his 2-year-old program to push gangs out of the city’s sprawling shantytowns and replace them with permanent police posts was only beginning, that he was now looking ahead to the next slum that police will go after – Rocinha, a huge sprawl of shanties and narrow alleys that is one of Latin America’s largest slums.
November 30, 2010
The Associated Press, 11/29/2010
Jose Pereira’s hand shook as he sat on a sidewalk and took a deep drag on a cigarette, trying to calm down after taking a stray bullet in the leg while police and drug dealers fought over the shantytown where he lives.
“They fight, but we’re the ones who suffer, the residents,” the 33-year-old bricklayer said just after police captured the slum amid heavy fire.
“How am I going to work now?” he said, motioning to his bandaged leg as he waited outside a hospital just outside the slum where he lives, his eyes tearing up in frustration. “I have three children. How are they going to eat?”